Friday 16 July 2010

maybe I didn't love you

I've just come from a rather emotional counselling session where my relationship with Mum was, as it often is, central to what was discussed. As you might expect, one focus of the counselling is on finding reasons for my adult behaviour in what happened to me as a child. Today I told the story of "Mum and Blame", something I mentioned last year in a response to a comment on another post. Essentially, the story is as follows:

I've tried all my life to have my Mother comfort me but she wasn't really the warmest person and never seemed to be "on my side, no matter what", the way I saw other Mothers behave. If something went wrong for me and I was upset, I would invariably go to Mum for comfort only to have her make me feel ten times worse. I would reach for a hug and she would, in turn, reach for whatever explanation she could find to make it all my fault, even when it was actually no-one's fault and all I needed was some sympathy. As I've grown up, I've witnessed other parenting styles and I've come to realise that I never felt that either of my parents would support me or stand up for me. I didn't feel protected. In my late teens, I went through a phase of staying up late talking to Mum, trying to tell her as much about myself as possible. I hoped we were finally connecting, but all my confessions and confidences just got thrown back at me later, whenever it helped her win an argument. I think it's because of this that I'm sensitive to any talk of blame these days and always try and shy away from such talk. Looking back, I find myself playing psychologist and I speculate that Mum (on some subconscious level) panicked whenever I presented myself as unhappy and  was unconsciously desperate to prove that whatever had happened wasn't her fault. 

Anyway, on coming out of the session, I bought a sandwich and was heading back to my car in my usual dazed state, when I passed a busker on the street. He was singing a slow ballad, and I didn't recognise the song at first because I had only ever heard a "disco" version by "The Pet Shop Boys". As I strolled up the street, I didn't properly take in what was being sung:

     Maybe I didn't treat you quite as good as I should.
     Maybe I didn't love you quite as often as I could. 
     Little things I should have said and done, 
     I never took the time....

It was only as I passed him that I took in the words:

    Maybe I didn't hold you
    All those lonely, lonely times

Suddenly I was alert. I had the strange feeling of everything being in focus, the feeling that my life had become a movie, complete with an appropriate soundtrack:

    If I made you feel second best,
    I'm so sorry I was blind.
    You were always on my mind.
    You were always on my mind.

It felt like a message. I wondered what the Universe was trying to tell me.

All I can say for sure so far is that it is true: I do seem to be always on Mum's mind these days. She has entirely forgotten her Husband, to whom she was married for 46 years, but she knows me and looks dotingly on me. The question is: can I accept the overflowing, unconditional love that she is suddenly showing me as having any value, knowing that it is only showing up now that some negative aspects of her personality have been deleted by the dementia?

   Tell me, tell me that your sweet love hasn't died.
   Give me one more chance to keep you satisfied.

I don't know if it's too late for me to accept this love as meaningful.


Lily said...

Our mothers were separated at birth! I first knew this lovely song as sung by Willie Nelson, I think he even wrote it. Check him out on Youtube.

Greg said...

Ha Ha... Well, as a friend of mine knows, I struggled with this post (put it up there, deleted it, re-wrote it) because I wasn't sure it "fitted" with the rest of my blog entries. I worried that it was too critical about Mum, focussing on events before her dementia became a problem. It's been reassuring to get my friend's verdict and now your response, too. Thank you.

p.s. I hadn't seen the Willie Nelson version until you prompted me, but I had found an Elvis version. Before last Friday I had no idea the PSBs hadn't written this song - I am a bit of an ignoramus when it comes to music.

Lily said...

Don't worry about going back in time, how else are we to make sense of the present? I think a great deal of who I am today derives from reacting against my mother's parenting, especially my own mothering. Thank god I have a completely different (and much better) relationship with my children. Maybe I have mum to thank for that - teaching me how NOT to be a mother? lol. Isn't it strange how dementia wipes great swathes of life from the memory but brings into sharp focus distant times, its as though mum's life tape has been brutally spliced, the last 70 years chucked on the floor with only the last hour or so tacked on to the end of her youth. She is convinced that when she is allowed to leave the 'hospital', it will be back to her childhood home and her unpleasant father, which she dreads. She said the other week that she wished he would find a woman and get married - he would be around 130 now! Mum never mentions dad any more and has totally forgotten that all her siblings have died, she only remembers that her mother died when she was young but as that has always been the main theme of her 'unlucky' life, its not surprising that its been hardwired into her brain. Good on you for persevering with the counselling, its something I've always wondered about trying myself, but never got round to.

Sorata said...

I was expecting WAY more posts than this, Greg, after I've been away for almost 3 months! Tsk tsk tsk!

I think you brought up something very interesting here.

"knowing that it is only showing up now that some negative aspects of her personality have been deleted by the dementia"

I think in a way, you actually answered your own question in your post. If her "unconditional love" does not exist for you at the first place, when the "negative aspects of her personality" fades away, it would still not been there. Therefore, it was always there, just for some reason (like the one that you have mentioned in the post as well) she hid it well beneath the surface.

I strongly believe, in most cases, that our parents really did the best that they knew how to do. They are still human (even though when we were young we worship them like Gods) and have their own "issues". Maybe Your Mom's way of treating you as a child was also conditioned by the way that she was treated as a child.

Anyway, all I wanted to say is, it is never too late to have a good relationship with your Mom. And I'm glad, even though it seems a bit late, that you have the chance to do so. Maybe this chapter with your Mom will be the best counselling session you have yet.

You're always on my mind, even though I don't write as much. I am, too, dealing with my own issues, that's all.

Greg said...

Sorata! How lovely to hear from you! Thank you for your lovely and considered comment.

You make a good point about the love having to be there first if it is exposed now - how did I miss that in writing this entry?

I know that my Parents were trying their best, doing as much as they could with the tools they'd been given as children themselves. Mum might have been a little intense at times, and unfair in an argument, but then she was an only child with a complicated relationship with both of her own Parents. Dad was pretty distant and didn't do the emotional thing, but then he'd had a very hard upbringing with a hard-as-nails Mother struggling to survive after losing her Husband after the First World War.

I'm sorry that you're having to deal with some stuff at the moment. I had hoped that you were just busy with work or that you'd simply re-directed your irrepressible energies somewhere else ("ooh, look, sparkles!") but I should have known something was up. I hope you're alright and that all is well with Miss Cleo and your Scotty.

G x

Matt said...

Hi Greg,

I too have been away for months, but am glad to read you again. I don't have anything to say that Sorata didn't say (much better than I would), but I agree - most parents, and I think yours especially, did the best they knew how. Even now it's hard for me to see my parents as "people" with inadequacies that they had no control over.

I think you accept the love your Mom is showing for you now, and not worry about what it is. The rest of our lives we sort out the earlier parts of our lives ... I think that's just the way we humans are.



Greg said...

Welcome back, Matt. And thank you for your thoughts. It's a sobering thought that I'm already at the age my parents were when they adopted me. While I might do a better job of child rearing in SOME areas, I can't know that I wouldn't screw my kids up in some other way. I'm by no means perfect. I do recognise that my parents were both human with their own hang-ups they'd carried on from their childhoods. Indeed, I've been making excuses for them for years. My Counsellor suggested that maybe I need to express a little anger before forgiving them.

I hope you are well. It's nice to have my PNW posse complete again ;)

citygirl said...

OMG Greg, you're making me cry (not hard these days). I'm reading your post and looking at it from the perspective of a new mom. I've had a hard time for these past 2 months connecting with my son. I'm not sure what it is and I hope to G*d it resolves. I want to love him so badly but there's a part of me that feels so little connection to this little being that screams 24 hours a day (he's colicky). I feel like I'm holding back.

I read your entry and sit here and cry. I hope I learn to love and support my son better than I am right now.

Greg said...

I'm so sorry to make you cry, Citymom - I hadn't considered how this might read to someone raising a child of their own! I don't know what to say, really. I'd expect you to have no problem holding the child close, given the amount of energy you've expended trying to be Mom for your wider family for so long. I'm sure this period of colic will pass and you'll get back to the nurturing. My neighbour is currently going through a nightmare with something I hadn't heard of before - post-partum psychosis, where she was seeing the baby as something very frightening and non-human. I just can't imagine how I'd cope with that!

It doesn't pay to dwell over-much on these things but to just try the best you can. I've been doing a lot of reading up on psychology recently and I don't think it's possible to be a perfect parent. Even if my Mum had been warmer and more supportive, I'd still likely have attachment issues due to being separated from my birth-Mother as a month-old baby (the Mum I've been talking about up to now is my adoptive Mother - have I mentioned that?).

Anyway, I am sure you're going to be a wonderfully warm and supportive Mom when it matters. Meantime, earplugs?

G x

citygirl said...

Hi G :) No need to say sorry about me crying. I cry at everything! I enjoy your blog so much and I actually feel better after reading it and having a cry.

Life is funny... I had so much love for my mom that it hurt. It killed me to have her slip away from me and still hurts more than anything. Yet here I am with my own child now and I am reluctant to love him. WTH?! Could I be weirder? Scary about your neighbour.

All this time I've been reading your blog, I never knew your Mum was your adoptive mom! WOW. I'm pondering that quite deeply now...